Welcome to the Jungle Music
Unlock the melody, harmony, and rhythm
Of all the songs on Appetite for Destruction, "Welcome to the Jungle" is (along with "Sweet Child O' Mine") about as close as Guns N' Roses get to a true pop sound. There are plenty of harder elements to the song, to be sure—like the famous opening riff, which Mick Wall, famous rock journalist and author of an unofficial Axl Rose biography, describes nicely as "echoing like hurried footsteps down an unlit alley." Together with the spiraling and chaotic bridge section, Rose's demonic response to those hurried footsteps—that monstrous growl—gives the song a heavy metal tinge.
But on the other side of things, his razor-tongued banshee screams are melodic and high enough to compliment the anthemic chorus and the straightforward rock beat of the verses, in a manner that faintly echoes the falsettos of contemporaries like David Coverdale of Whitesnake. In that way, "Welcome to the Jungle" seems to embrace the mainstream "hair metal" sound, if only because the band knows that whatever Bon Jovi can do, they can do much better.
Some of the best musical moments of "Welcome to the Jungle" come from the band's fruitful attempts to suggest the sounds of the (urban) jungle through musical mimicry. The opening riff may well have come straight from a horror movie. As Mick Wall observed, the opening notes suggest movement—perhaps of something in the darkness. That "tense echo," as Slash described it, gets utterly urbanized by the delay effect, which gives it an artificial sound. As the riff continues into a bouncing but scary descending line, the sense of movement becomes inescapable. As if Slash's riff is merely a hint of what is to come, Rose's monster howl creeps into the mix, setting the tone for both the song and the entire album. As the verse riff kicks in, the initial metal aspect of the song gives way to a party feel that's much more conventional for the rock music of the day.
The verses and the chorus are extremely upbeat—markedly different from the heavier material that makes up the bulk of Appetite for Destruction. The verse is straightforward rhythmically, but, where heavier Appetite songs like "It's So Easy" and "My Michelle" stick largely to a descending chord progression, the modulation of the verse riff to higher notes makes "Welcome to the Jungle" stick out. The use of a female chorus in the verses (singing a descending melody behind "In the jungle, / Welcome to the jungle") adds a little more pop convention to the song. (The use of choirs in the chorus of songs was widely used in pop-rock hits of the time—in Bon Jovi's "Livin' On a Prayer," for example.)
The bridge of the song, beginning at 3:19, moves "Welcome to the Jungle" out of party mode and back into the horror and insanity of the opening. Duff McKagen brings us back to the descending intro riff by playing exactly what Slash does at the beginning of the song, only several octaves lower. Coupled with Steven Adler's shakers, the lower register of the bass as it plays the riff creates a tribal effect, the bass notes sounding like tom hits. Slash, back on the delay effect, slides his pick across the strings and uses harmonics to create these jungle sounds—evoking, once again, the rustle of something dangerous just out of sight. Rose, stepping out of the song and into this omniscient speaker role says, "You know where you are? / You're in the jungle baby, / You gonna die!" Just as the song seems to be tearing itself apart, it returns to the anthemic chorus section, seemingly revitalized by this descent into chaos and insanity. The fleet-footed dance between metal and pop rock in "Welcome to the Jungle" makes the highs of the chorus seem so much more powerful and the lows so much more hellish. In that respect, the pop elements of the song seem to exist only as a means by which the band may flaunt its gritty, vice-laden image.
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